|Wimbledon Centre Court /|
The thrill of victory
on the most famous rectangle in tennis.
One year ago, Novak Djokovic left Wimbledon injured and uncertain of his future. On Sunday, the Serbian left the All England Club as the 2018 Wimbledon gentlemen's singles champion for the fourth time. As a further reward, he even got to share a dance with this year's ladies' singles champion, Angelique Kerber, at Sunday night's Champions' Dinner.
While the past couple of years have seen some dark, barren times for the 13-time Grand Slam champion, his 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (3) win over 32-year-old Kevin Anderson of South Africa in this year's Wimbledon final proved without a doubt that Djokovic is back – and, now, he's the newly ranked No. 10 player in the world.
Meanwhile, Anderson's memorable fortnight, which included a five-set victory over No. 1 seed Roger Federer in the quarterfinals that propelled him toward reaching his second Grand Slam final in less than a year, lifted him to No. 5 in the latest ATP rankings.
"Even though today is not the result I was looking for, I think in the next few days, just seeing my new career-high ranking is going to mean a lot to me," said Anderson during the trophy presentation following Sunday's final. "Looking back at some of the matches, especially my quarterfinal and semifinal match, it will really set, in what I've accomplished. I can be happy with that and use it for continued motivation."
At No. 21, Djokovic became the lowest-ranked male to win Wimbledon since Goran Ivanisevic won in 2001 while ranked No. 125.
|Novak Djokovic celebrates his Wimbledon |
victory by waving to his family.
Tackling these pressing questions one at a time, Djokovic remains the best returner in men's tennis, bar none, and it made a big difference against the 6-foot-8 Anderson, who was hobbled by mental and physical fatigue brought on from his six plus-hour marathon semifinal on Friday against John Isner, in which the fifth set alone was stretched to 50 games (26-24 in favor of Anderson) and lasted nearly three hours alone. Understandably, the personable giant, who is one of the nicest and most polite professionals on tour, had little left for the final. Indeed, by winning Wimbledon, it gives Djokovic a big psychological boost heading into the North America hard court season leading up to the United States Open, which begins the final week of August. And yes, if Federer can still win Grand Slams at age 36, there's no reason that Djokovic can't win a few more, too – he's just 31.
The past couple of years have seen a decline in Djokovic's desire – not to mention turmoil among his coaching team – coupled with a serious injury to his right elbow that required surgery following this year's Australian Open. On Sunday, it was great to see the champion, nicknamed "Nole," back on Centre Court playing in a Grand Slam final, reunited with his longtime coach Marian Vajda who sat perched in the players' box just above Centre Court. Djokovic played solid-if-not-patient tennis throughout much of the two hour and 19 minute match. He won 76 percent (52 of 68) of his first-serve points, hit 20 winners against 13 unforced errors and broke his opponent four times in four tries. Although Anderson finished with 10 service aces and hit 26 winners, he committed 32 unforced errors and was zero-for-seven in break-point conversions. Djokovic outpointed Anderson 100-74.
On match point, with Djokovic serving at 6-3 in the third set tie-break, he forced Anderson into netting a forehand return. The final was over. After meeting Anderson at the net to shake hands and exchange pleasantries, Djokovic lifted his arms in triumph – much to the delight of the cheering crowd. Soon after, the new champion knelt down to nibble a few blades of grass in celebration – giving a literal interpretation to tasting victory.
|Three-year-old Stefan Djokovic, secure in the|
arms of his mother, Novak Djokovic's wife
Jelena, during the trophy ceremony.
"It feels amazing – the first time in my life I have someone screaming 'Daddy! Daddy!'," said Djokovic, beaming a smile during his on-court interview with the BBC's Sue Barker.
"I'm very emotional with him being there, and my wife and while team. I cherish this moment."
Polite and gracious, Djokovic continued: "I would like to congratulate Kevin. I was quite lucky to get through. I'm very grateful to everyone who has been supporting me. The last couple of years haven't been easy, facing for the first time a severe injury. I had many moments of doubt and didn't know if I could come back. But there's no better place in the world to make a comeback. I always dreamed of holding this trophy as a boy. This is a sacred place for tennis. It's very special."
Indeed, as Djokovic showed everyone on Sunday, there's no better place in the world than Centre Court at Wimbledon – the most famous rectangle in tennis – to make a comeback.
Photos: Courtesy of Google Images.